The Tarantula Files: Nothing to it and White Swan

by Larry Fyffe

Nothing To It  

& tolstoy - all right then
- what my work is
- is merely picking up where they left off
- nothing more
(Bob Dylan: Tarantula)

Apparently, it’s really nothing to carry on, at least according to the rather foggy poetic diction below into which rides our “cowboy angel”.

Leo Tolstoy pens “War and Peace,” a fictionalized rendering of Napoleon’s actual invasion of Russia:

Of war and peace the truth just twists
Its curfew gull just glides 
Upon four-legged forest clouds
The cowboy angel rides
(Bob Dylan: Gates Of Eden)

The translated quote below,  be at the end of “The Gambler” ~ a book by another Russian writer:

" ... later i left the Casino with one hundred & seventy gulden
in my pocket
 - it's the absolute truth!"

 - fyodor dostoevsky

(Bob Dylan: Tarantula)

Inferred above is that what you need to win in life is to first have the courage to make the bet:

Well, I knew I was young enough
And I knew there was nothing to it
'Cause I'd already seen it done enough
And I knew there was nothing to it
(Jim James et al: Nothing To It ~ Bob Dylan)

Another Russian author comes  along; this time a modernist playwright whose dark-humored dramas introduce characters who have desires ~ albeit suppressed~ about which they speak inferentially.

For Anton Chekov, the trick in life is to reconcile lofty romantic sentiments with stone-cold reality –  as best that one is able.

His writings and literary symbolism go together:

I shall always remember you as I saw you that bright day … you wore your light dress, and we talked together, and the white gull lay on the bench beside us

(Anton Chekov: The Lake Gull ~ translated)

Though time moves on – ie, the wilderness passes, youth passes –

hope remains:

Our conservation was short and sweet
It nearly knocked me of of my feet ....
Bird on the horizon, sitting on the fence
He's singing his song for me at his own expense
And I'm just like that bird, oohh
Singing just for you
(Bob Dylan: You're A Big Girl Now)

White Swan

From out of the Blakean poem beneath springs “Home On The Range”, a song that depicts the Old West of America as an Edenic paradise on earth:

I love these wild flowers in this bright land of ours
I love , too, the curlew's wild scream
The bluffs of white rocks, and antelope flocks
That graze on the hillsides so green
(Brewster Higley: The Western Home)

Gather what you can from author Leo Tolstoy, from post-modernist  word-twists, and from pure coincidence ~ in the song lyrics below.

Also, there’s the possible playful ‘fore’, ‘forer’, and ‘forest’:

Of war and peace the truth just twists
It's curfew gull just glides
Upon four-legged forest clouds
The cowboy angel rides
(Bob Dylan: Gates Of Eden)

Poet William Blake engraves visions that tightly combine the spiritual and physical aspects of the mysterious Universe.

In the Dylan quote above, the two cosmic planes are congealed into somewhat-updated word-images which are carried solumnly along by the accompanying music.

Similarly so in the book “Tarantula” by Bob Dylan; but of course without any accompanying “music” ~ except for the ways the sounds of the words are put together to create rhythm, onomatopoeia, assonance, dissonance, consonance, alliteration, and all.

As in the following quote:

(T)here's no liquor in the land
that can stop your brain from bleedin
(Bob Dylan: Tarantula)

Dylan’s “Gates Of Eden” crosses the path of the paradisal “Home On The Range”, a version of that song made well-known by Gene Autry, the singing cowboy “angel”; then owner of the “California Angels” baseball team.

Below, akin to the early version of the range (Autry, on the other hand, leaves out the white swan):

Where the graceful white swan goes gliding along
Like a maid in a heavenly dream
(Frank Sinatra: Home On The Range~ Higley, Kelley, et. al.)

The  range also crosses the path of the following ballad:
And the swan on the river goes gliding by
The swan on the river goes giding by
(Bob Dylan: The Ballad Of The Gliding Swan ~ Dylan/Jones)

Anyway, the cowboy angel’s rendition goes:

Oh, give me a home, where the buffalo roam
Where the deer and the antelope play ....
How often at night when the heavens are bright
With the light from the glittering stars
Have I stood there amazed, and asked as I gazed
If their glory exceeds that of ours
(Gene Autry: Home On The Range ~ Higley, Kelley,

Actor Alan Hale plays “Tiny”, Gene Autry’s cowboy sidekick ~ a couple of times on screen.

But apparently, things have changed:

Tiny - I met her at an outrageous party ....
& she's got a new boyfriend now
& he looks like machine gun kelly
(Bob Dylan: Tarantula)



  1. This refers to a famous attack ad against the election of Barry Goldwater which you can see in its entirety by clicking the photo above. The little girl does a countdown by twisting leafs off this flower that segues into a nuclear explosion. Curfewed gull is the little girl who has to go to sleep at specific hour and is naïve, gullible “just glides” (the petals glide to the ground). This ad was all over television. “Upon four-legged” upon a four-legged apocalyptic horse “forest” city-sized “clouds” something that, darkens and fills with gloom such as a mushroom cloud caused by a hydrogen bomb. “cowboy angel” Angel: a guardian spirit or guiding influence: Senator Barry Goldwater, who was accused of being reckless (a cowboy) in advocating a first strike against the Soviet Union “rides” thrives.
    Earlier version of Gates of Eden; “Upon the fungus [mushroom] forest cloud.”
    With his candle shaped missiles armed with nuclear warheads that rely on the same fusion energy as the sun. lit – this is the key word: set afire or burning. The glow from the rocket engines is waxed, eclipsed, by black by death on a scale never seen before. The radioactivity would be carried to the four corners of the earthy by the winds all except when beneath the protection of America. (sarcastic)

  2. Yes, possibly inspired by an American TV political ad of the day, but the lyrics are wide-open enough so as not to be bound in space and time to the Soviet-United States confrontation.

  3. Could be inspired by an American TV political ad of the day, but the lyrics are by no means bound in space and time to the US/Soviet conftrontation

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